Healing, answers could be slow in Hannah Anderson kidnapping
SAN DIEGO (CNN) — Hannah Anderson, the California teenager whose abduction triggered a manhunt across the West, has survived “a tremendous, horrific ordeal” and faces a slow healing process, her father said Monday.
“I am very proud of her and I love her very much,” Brett Anderson said. “She is surrounded by the love of her family, friends and community.”
But authorities kept the detail of that horrific ordeal close to the vest Monday, two days after the man accused of abducting Hannah and killing her mother and brother was killed by an FBI agent.
The 16-year-old was found alive after a frantic, week-long search that stretched from southern California to the wilderness of central Idaho, more than 1,000 miles away, where she was found at a campsite by a mountain lake. At a news conference in San Diego, Brett Anderson thanked investigators as well as reporters and social media users who spread the story “across and beyond” the United States.
“Have no doubt that this did make a difference,” he said. But he said it was time “for us to grieve and move on to the healing process,” and he pleaded for the “respect and time” needed for that to happen.
Hannah’s ordeal came to an end after a tip from horseback riders sent FBI agents swarming to a camping spot outside Cascade, Idaho. James DiMaggio, the man investigators had sought in her disappearance, was shot in a confrontation with an FBI tactical agent. Hannah told authorities that DiMaggio fired at least once before being shot, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.
“Obviously we would have liked for Mr. DiMaggio to surrender and face justice in the court of law,” Gore said. “But that’s not going to be the case.”
Hannah did not appear to have significant physical injuries and was reunited with her father Sunday. She was unaware that her mother and brother were dead until after DiMaggio was killed, when she was told of their killings by FBI interviewers, Gore said.
Gore would discuss no details of Hannah’s abduction except to say she was under “extreme duress” the entire time. He said the investigation is still going on, but cautioned, “We might never know some of these answers.”
“When you get a completely irrational act like we’ve seen here, with two murders and a kidnapping, sometimes you’re not going to come up with a rational explanation of what happened,” he said.
‘Uncle Jim’ and his interest in Hannah
DiMaggio’s friendship with the Anderson family had been long and close, predating Hannah’s birth. Hannah referred to him as “Uncle Jim.”
But there were some signs that DiMaggio was infatuated with Hannah and signs he was trying to lure the family to his home in rural San Diego County, near the Mexican border, her grandparents said.
The signs were subtle, according to grandparents Ralph and Sara Britt, also of San Diego.
“He seemed to enjoy being with Hannah and her friends … more and more,” Ralph Britt said, shaking his head. “But he’s been with the kids for years.”
“There was no danger sign, nothing that you would act on, say it was wrong,” he said. “It was just friendly.”
But a friend of Hannah’s said she saw a different side to the relationship between DiMaggio and the teen.
Marissa Chavez told CNN that she was in a car with Hannah and DiMaggio, 40, a few months ago when he told Hannah he had a crush on her.
He followed it up by saying if he was her age, he would date Hannah, Chavez said.
Hannah was unnerved by the comments, but did not tell her mother because she did not want to ruin the close relationship that her parents had with DiMaggio, Chavez said.
But Hannah did not want to be alone with DiMaggio after that, according to Chavez.
“I don’t think she would have gone willingly with him at all,” she said.
In an earlier episode, Chavez recalled a trip that DiMaggio and Hannah took to Hollywood.
The trip was supposed to be for one week, but Hannah told Chavez that they came back after two days because DiMaggio was upset that she wasn’t paying enough attention to him.
‘You can’t really tell the book by its cover’
Sara Britt said DiMaggio would have done anything for them and they would have returned the favor.
“My message is to parents: Just be more aware, more conscious of what’s going on,” Britt said. “Life gets busy, but take the time. If anything, learn something from this and that is just to be more aware for your children.”
Ralph Britt added: “I guess you can’t really tell the book by its cover,” he said. “It was just complete shock. We didn’t have any idea. I don’t know what you would look for.”
In the weeks before DiMaggio’s home in rural San Diego County went up in flames, he pleaded for the Andersons to visit him one last time. He had lost the home to foreclosure and said he was moving back to Texas.
“We feel it was planned at this point based on the information that’s out there,” said Sara Britt. “It’s so unfortunate. Apparently he tried to get her up there before, but she couldn’t go and so … she went, took the dog and the kids.”
Hannah went missing after cheerleading practice on August 3. The next day, the bodies of her mother, Christina Anderson, 42, and 8-year-old brother, Ethan, were found about 45 miles east of San Diego, in DiMaggio’s burned house in Boulevard. The body of a dog was also recovered, police said.
The horror spurred an Amber Alert and a manhunt, which zeroed in the Idaho highlands after DiMaggio’s blue Nissan Versa was found outside Cascade. Then there was a sighting of the pair by horseback riders, who considered them poorly equipped for the environment.
Mark John, one of those riders, said Sunday that they saw multiple “red flags” during their brief encounter, including the brand-new camping equipment they carried and the pajama-like bottoms Hannah was wearing.
It was “just like a square peg going into a round hole,” John said. “They didn’t fit.”
Another rider, Mike Young, said it looked like Hannah “had a scared look on her face,” adding about DiMaggio: “I just had a gut feeling about him.”
Unaware of the Amber Alert, however, the horseback riders continued on, and only after seeing a news report on the pair upon returning home did the group put the puzzle pieces together.
“When I seen that picture on the screen, I told my wife, I said, ‘That is the girl that was up on that mountain,’ ” John recalled.
Hundreds of law enforcement agents started to scour 300 square miles of rough terrain — dense forests, steep valleys and peaks over 8,000 feet — hampered by the smoke from nearby wildfires.
Late Saturday afternoon, they spotted the pair’s campsite near Morehead Lake, about 30 miles from Cascade. But the topography was so steep, helicopters had to drop authorities off far away from the camp.
Hostage rescue teams had to hike more than two hours to get to the scene, local sheriffs’ departments said. They moved in carefully so they wouldn’t alert DiMaggio that they were coming. They moved in after DiMaggio and the girl were separated, unshering Hannah to an area where a helicopter could whisk her away.
At some point, a “confrontation” ensued between authorities and DiMaggio, Gore said. The confrontation ended when an FBI tactical agent shot and killed the murder and kidnapping suspect.